Jerry Davich: Still time to get a flu shot
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2013 4:32PM
Rosa Guerrero smiles after giving Greg Eggleston a flu shot at the HealthLinc health center in Valparaiso Wednesay Jan. 3, 2013. Eggleston, of Portage, said he decided to get the shot after hearing news reports about the current strain causing so much illness across the country. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Thirty states are reporting high influenza-like illness activity. Last week 16 states reported high activity.
States reporting high activity for the week ending Dec. 29 include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Since Oct. 1, 2,257 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported — an increase of 735 hospitalizations from the previous week.
Two influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported during the week of Dec. 23-29. Both deaths were associated with influenza B viruses. Eighteen influenza-associated pediatric deaths occurring during the 2012-2013 season have been reported.
The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza in the United States during the week of Dec. 23-29 decreased from 36.7% in the previous week to 31.6%.
Influenza A (H3N2), 2009 influenza A (H1N1), and influenza B viruses have all been identified in the U.S. this season.
Source: Centers for Disease Control website, cdc.gov
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:11AM
In late-November, a friend asked if I was planning on getting the flu vaccination.
“Nah,” I scoffed. “I never get the flu shot and I do just fine without it.”
Fast-forward one month, to the day after Christmas. I slept in until noon. The rest of that day I was lazy, lifeless, and lethargic. Holiday hangover, I figured. I figured wrong.
It started with a sore throat. Then a headache. Then a stomach ache. Low energy. High fever. Chills. Cough. Watery eyes. And muscle aches, like I just finished running a marathon.
By that night, my most despised three-word phrase during the winter months popped into my congested head. No, not lake-effect snow. “Flu-like symptoms.” I had them and how.
I turned on the late-night TV news. I wasn’t alone. At least 41 states reported “widespread influenza outbreaks,” including Indiana, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This year’s nastiest and most common flu strain, H3N2, has already hospitalized thousands of people and left at least 18 children dead, the government agency stated.
“Typically, H3N2 seasons tend to be more severe, with a higher number of hospitalizations and deaths,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said in a statement. “We are now well into what appears to be a somewhat severe flu season.”
Tell me about it.
Worse yet, the official flu season hasn’t even peaked yet, federal health officials warn.
It’s off to its earliest start in nearly a decade, since the winter of 2003-2004, one of the deadliest flu seasons in decades with more than 48,000 flu-related deaths.
“The worst is yet to come,” a doctor told NBC-TV as I watched from my couch the following night.
The good doctor was talking about the flu season across the country, but I knew he was talking about me, directly to me. He was right, too.
I pumped my body with over-the-counter medications while my hazy head tried to tackle the flu on a cerebral level.
Is it feed a cold and starve a fever? Or starve the flu and feed a fever? Hell, I don’t remember. So I kept downing Ny-Quil, zinc lozenges and Tylenol. And when I couldn’t sleep at night, I tossed in a Vicodin or two. My own late-night cocktail. It didn’t help.
Not too late for a shot
The CDC says the “increased flu activity” will stick around for a while, possibly lasting up to 16 weeks or even 19 weeks, as it did during the H1N1 pandemic.
On the upside, more than a third of Americans have received the flu vaccine, which is well matched to the dominant strain of the virus, officials say. And there’s plenty of it to go around. By the end of the year, as I was still reeling, roughly 135 million doses of vaccine had been created, with 115 million doses distributed to providers.
Earlier this week, I contacted the Indiana Department of Health with questions.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, is it too late for it to do any good? Do any over-the-counter flu medicines actually work? If you still haven’t gotten the flu, how can you best protect yourself?
Later that day, the agency sent a press release to media. There have been seven flu-related deaths reported in Indiana since November. By comparison, no flu-related deaths had been reported at this time last year.
“However,” Larkin said, “it is absolutely not too late to become vaccinated.”
This year’s vaccine protects against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1, and Influenza B. It’s recommended for anyone 6 months of age or older, and especially for those at higher risk of complications related to the flu, including pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and the elderly.
Also, for stubborn middle-aged men who wrongly believe they’ll be fine without it.
Two weeks after catching the flu bug, it still hasn’t left my body. I continue to have a cough, congestion, and low energy. But I’m making progress.
“If you have not been vaccinated this year, I encourage you to get vaccinated now to protect you and your family,” Larkin said.
Other tips to help protect you revolve around the three C’s: Clean (wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water), Cover (cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue, and Contain (stay home from school or work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.)
The most germ-infested objects in public places include restaurant menus, restroom door handles, soap dispensers, grocery carts, and lemon wedges.
It would probably be a lot easier to simply get the flu shot, and I will definitely do it — next year.
For more on this issue, listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show this Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.